Environmental influences on exercise intensity and duration in a U.S. time use study

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2009 Sep;41(9):1698-705. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0b013e3181a06c9b.


Purpose: Rising rates of physical inactivity and obesity in the United States highlight the critical need to identify contexts and settings that are conducive to the promotion of recreational physical activity. The current study investigated whether the intensity and duration of sports and exercise bouts differ across physical and social environments as reported in a nationally representative time use survey of U.S. adults.

Methods: From the American Time Use Survey (years 2003-2006), adult participants (ages > or =21 yr) who reported at least one bout of sports or exercise on the previous day were selected (N = 7700). For each exercise bout, respondents reported the activity type, its duration (in minutes), its location (e.g., outdoors, home, work, health club/gym), and with whom it occurred (e.g., alone, family members, coworkers, friends/acquaintances). Sample-weighted logistic and linear regression analyses examined differences in intensity expressed as METs (moderate, 3.0-6.0 METs; vigorous, >6.0 METs) and in duration of exercise bouts across environments.

Results: Vigorous-intensity exercise was more likely when the bout occurred alone as compared with other social situations (P values < 0.001) and when at a gym/health club and at home as compared with outdoors (P values < 0.001). For both moderate and vigorous activities, exercise bouts were shorter when exercising alone versus with family members, friends/acquaintances, or multiple categories (P values < 0.001). Mean duration of exercise bouts was greater when exercising outdoors than when exercising at home, work, or at gym/health club (P values < 0.001).

Conclusions: Nationally representative time use data for U.S. adults suggest that the intensity and duration of exercise bouts are differentially affected by social contexts and physical settings.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Environment Design*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Health Surveys
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Social Environment*
  • United States
  • Young Adult